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The Last Word: Employment - The Latest Innovation?

One of the many things that currently puzzles me, is why on the one hand do our politicians look glum when presented with the dramatically high rate of 12% youth unemployment, and on the other, they encourage business to hasten the use of new technology.

Innovations such as the use of robots in factories, driverless trains, trucks, buses and cars, and even operator free checkouts in supermarkets are becoming commonplace in our communities, and in so doing, eliminating people from jobs. Sure, many of these jobs are humdrum, and in themselves offer little by way of future prospects, but they do give people work and the ability to earn a wage, as well as feeling as though they are part of an active society.

Whilst this headlong, apparently unthinking, race to embrace technology appears an exciting new age way to go, caution should be exercised. We are assured by the proponents that to remain competitive we must move ahead, even though there will be some short-term job loss pain. However, they reassure us by saying that the technology will present new job opportunities, and with retraining programs in place, youth unemployment (and unemployment in general) will diminish. Sounds fantastic, but is it that simple?

I’m no Luddite, but it does seem to me that the advancing rate in the use of new technology is far outstripping any proposed retraining and new job creation regime. And where is the master plan setting out the era of new jobs, I hear you ask? I have noted with concern that the use of our once vaunted north side TAFE colleges appear to be on the decline. At last count, the massive Carseldine campus has been mothballed, and the latest suggestion is that its land will be used for redevelopment. That’s hardly a positive indication of planned future retraining programs, is it?

Or maybe my concerns are all for nothing. Perhaps there is some glorious welfare plan being hatched right now, whereby none of us will have to work again. Oh yes, and pigs will fly!


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